Friday, July 28, 2006

home is nice

it sure is green in virginia. and those mountains, with the mist, just lovely.

Monday, July 24, 2006

final thought

today our last day in cyprus. the journey has been a bumpy load punctuated by periods of sea drift. fleeting moments of relaxation: floating like a starfish under cyprus sky. sky specific to this region -- a certain blue, a certain smell, a certain just-so along the land, a certain presence upon closed eyelids that conveys bliss and bombardment. a certain agony. a certain jubilation.

the beauty of cyprus is subtle. it emerges from a rusty tire rim. it grows from the stone rubble of an abandoned village home riddled with bullet holes. it peaks out from between ostentatious resorts and villas. it drifts between traffic jams and round-abouts. it sinks behind the akamas peninsula and rises from the shore of the pomos point. it brings you a sense of harmony despite its very destruction, despite the devastation of a land less than 100 miles away.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

our days are numbered

where capers grow along dusty track. cats cling. winding venture seeks cedar valley. aromatic shift. the fan isists. goat smell. after fish, a feast. the pillar cracked ignites a need. fig tree from tomb. thyme scent & snake. surf breaks upon rock. salt spray. doves salute setting sun.

- - - - - - -

yesterday, after visiting aphrodite's temple in kouklia, we drove up into the mountains. we wound through several villages of stone houses and red roofs. the greenery multiplied and the breeze grew fresh and strong. we lunched in omodos, a village of white washed walls, blue wooden shutters, thin cobbled alleyways. old women sit in doorways concentrating on needlework and urging tourists into their shops. there are several old wine presses and traditional houses. we continued on to troodos, near the highest part of the range, and rode horses on a dirt track where we had sweeping views in all directions. tashi's horse was rita, and mine, ramon. they were very good horsies. after some fun in the playground we began our descent, stopping at troodhitissa, a peaceful monastery that looks more like a swiss chalet. we ended up in mongaria, where there was a festival celebrating the region's famous commanderia wine. we saw several awesome traditional song and dance routines, observed a boot cobbler, a basket maker, a chair caner. we drove back to our flat in the late-late night, my eyes fighting to remain open.

the day before we took my mom to ayios neophytos monastery built near a cave where the saint once carved out a home for himself and lived a monk's life. the funky village of lemba followed, a small community of artists and students. the cyprus school of art is there, surrounded by a colorful wall of sculpture and found objects. tashi decided that it was where she would go to college. i indulged in a beatiful teapot of lemba pottery. hopefully i'll get it home in one piece. lemba also has a very cool archeological sight of prehistoric round stone houses, but tashi was too hot to deal with it. afterwards we drove to lara bay, along the west side of the akamas peninsula. we took a swim at the blissful sandy beach, which is also one of few turtle hatcheries. a small girl named nikoletta befriended tashi. her parents were both mute.

this morning i visited the archeological museum here in polis, a small but fine collection of well preserved antiquities. polis was once called marion and then arsinoe.

today, tomorrow, and the next, our last in cyprus this summer.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

disco post

when i first came into this cafe/bar with two computers tucked into a hot upstairs loft, i was so happy because they were playing bob marley. sometimes bob marley is all you need after weeks of greek pop music. but now they are playing very, very loud euro-trash disco music and it hurts.

but i am here and thus must update.

tonight as i drove in solitude the ten miles to polis from our little flat i felt such a mix of emotions. the sun was setting beautifully in tones of lavender and violet over the sea with the mesas and mountains of the akamas peninsula looking like a sleeping beast. i felt sad that i have just one week left in my birth place, which, sooner or later given enough time, always casts me under aphrodite's spell. i felt so much love that i thought i'd melt right there in the car and merge with the sea. but i also felt remorse, after the tension and stress of my mother and my aunt. and i felt lonely, not having my beautiful man by my side in this incredibly romantic place. and i felt huge waves of awe for my daughter who has been so entertained by the adults and who is filling her sketch book with intricate drawings and who is completely intoxicated by the underwater world. snorkeling in the mediterranean sea is way up there on the list of the best things to do with one's child.

that and climbing down into the ancient underground tombs that we visited yesterday. the tombs of the kings is an incredible sight of deep underground burial structures built as far back as the 4th century BC. tashi was certain is was going to be really boring but then couldn't get enough of the steep stairwells leading down to the well preserved underground temples full of burial chambers. we saw several lizards and a long black whip snake. all along the site are fig trees, caper plants, palm trees and wild thyme.

earlier in the day we swam at petra tou romiou, an outstanding rocky outcropping along the south coast where aphrodite is said to have risen from the sea. the water was icy cold, but so refreshing. tashi met another eight year old american child at the rocks and had a really good time connecting with a little person.

and so all goes well and seems to get better. but right now, i've got to escape this music!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

how many cypriots does it take to unlock a car?

apparently at least eight.

but this isn't an ordinary unlocking. it is the kind that takes place when a stupido tourist like myself locks her keys in the rental car.

this is how i started off my day.

first i went to the bakery, where i picked up olive bread, halloumi bread, a fat ham and cheese pastry, and another crispy pastry stuffed with a sweet cheese and sprinkled with powdered sugar. then i went to the grocery store where i picked up milk, bacon, frozen halloumi stuffed ravioli, juice and a cheap beach towel with dolphins on it. i returned to a locked car, keys in the ignition. so i walked back to our flat, which wasn't all that far. and then i walked with my mom back to the car because she speaks greek. she talked to the grocer who talked to his friend who drove off to get the mechanic. the mechanic arrived and wedged the window slightly open with strange expandable device, and stuck in various wires, first trying to press the unlock button, and then trying to pull the keys from the ignition, and then simply pulling the lock up with success. several villagers and ourselves looked on with suspense while he performed his operation. twenty pounds and two hours later we were able to get into our car and drive.


i was in a pretty fowl mood after that. it was a sort of climax to all the bad communication that has been going on between my mom, my aunt, and yes, myself. i'm tired of being told where to park, and how to back up, and what to eat and how to eat it. i'm tired of the fact that one person wants to take this path to the beach while the other wants to take the other. life is tough isn't it? ok, that's the end of my vent for now.

last night two of my cypriot-born-now-american cousins and their wives arrived from the states. the last time i saw them i was basically tashi's age. that would be 31 years ago. so we had a big family dinner at a great fish restaurant on the latchi harbor. it was a good old fashioned fish mezze. one plate after another of mussels, calamari, octopus, snapper, swordfish, awesome village salads, bread sprinkled with olive oil and herbs, taziki, taramosalata, and tahini.

today we all went to another beach on akamas, a protected cape of northwestern cyprus where there is a famous spring where, it is said, aphrodite used to bathe. again, the water was a crystal clear display of blue of hues. tashi swam around with her new mask and snorkel, pointing out a number of colorful fish, shells containing crabs and spiny sea urchins. cozy coves flank the bluffs. rocky outcroppings rise up from the sea.

yesterday we visited paphos for the second time. paphos has some awesome ancient ruins and mosaics against a backdrop of every cheesy tourist trap you can imagine. the other night a cypriot musical group performed a tribute to abba. the abba cult lives, even in cyprus. there are tons of shops selling cheap souviners made in china and india. one pub after another. pink pelicans. overpriced food. glass bottomed boats. crowds of tourists looking like cooked lobsters for lack of sunscreen.

i couldn't spend as much time as i would have liked to at the mosaics, as tashi was tired and hot. but a glimpse of the amazingly well preserved depictions of gods and goddesses was better than no glimpse at all. afterwards i took tashi to the paphos aquarium where we saw lots of fish, shrimp, eels, crabs, turtles, sting rays and a couple of alligators fresh from the mississippi. this was a nice compliment to the snake museum we visited the other day, where we saw about six native cypriot snakes, several lizards, spiders, a scorpion and some more turtles.

the other night there was a "pannayiri", a street fair that usually takes place in celebration of saint's day. it was very similar the "mela" i experienced in india. there were booths selling traditional foods, sweet honey balls called lukomathes, piles of pulses, nuts, candies, jujuko (long strings of walnuts encased in a sweet sugar taffy), air dried meats, sausages. some booths sold household items: beach towels with weird depictions of spider man, cinderella, sea creatures and race cars. kitchen ware. bedding. there were booths of pirated cd's and dvd's. and lots of booths selling very junky toys. there were carnival games where you could win caged birds, goldfish, three foot high victorian dolls. and more booths selling junky jewelery and hairbands. it was fascinating the way a carnival is.

so while emotionally i'm feeling a little fragile from the weirdness that is emitting from my mother and her sister, i'm having a great time with my daughter.

unfotunately another war has erupted in the country next door and i'm feeling pretty sick over that. having been completely ignorant of news for a few weeks now (aside from who was winning in the world cup games), the only physical impact that is felt here is that the airports are busier because flights to beruit have been diverted to cyprus.

so i'll end this with a wish for peace.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

we like moufflon

greetings from the "polis connect" internet cafe.

i awoke this morning at 5am and went out for a walk on the shore, shell searching as the sun was about to rise from behind a troodos peak. peaceful, cool, silent, but for the crow of a rooster and the slam of the raging surf. i saw a sideways walking crab, a shy lizard and a leaping fish. the sun eventually covered the land in laava and i found my way back to our cool chamber.

yesterday was a tiring drive into the troodos mountains. we went to the stavros psi tsokas preserve where moufflon are protected. moufflon are a kind of wild sheep with beautiful thick curved horns, once endangered in cyprus. we saw five moufflon in their enclosure. after a nice picnic of ham and halloumi sandwiches with fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, we drove to the obligatory kikkos monastery where my mom got giddy over icons. after that we drove into the cedar valley where a huge collection of the very ancient tree grows.

soon we are going to return to the beach on the akamas penninsula where the water is crystle clear and calm. there are many rocky coves to explore with a mask. the fambly is waiting for me to complete this post so i must run. hopefully i will have more time to disclose details soon.

Monday, July 10, 2006

a note from polis, on the northern coast of cyprus

terribly sorry about the lag in posts. the one computer with a dial up connection at our place of residence is coin operated and usless piece of piddle. it's eaten up my money and frozen on several occasions, sometimes on its own accord typing a single letter over and over and over again until my time runs out.

i've found a lovely internet cafe in town and am drinking illy espresso while i type. sure beats the the nescafe espresso i've been plagued with.

aaaah, coastal bliss. after a week of fun in nicosia, the capitol city, we are now residing in a small flat in ayia marina, on the north west coast. we are near a lovely village called polis, where i sit now. i don't have much time and i don't know when i'll make it to this internet cafe again, so i will attempt to give you a synopsis of the days.

week one/nicosia, cyprus:

we stayed in a fine hotel called "the classic" within the venetian walls of the old city. a lot of time was spent walking up and down ledra street -- a sort of pedestrian mall with the likes of starbucks, mcdonalds, traditional tavernas, shoe stores, and the green line dividing the cypriots and the turks.

while in nicosia i visited a few museums:

1) the cyprus museum, a house full of archeological wonders which i mentioned in a previous post.

2) the handicraft museum, the byzantine icon museum and the modern art museum all within the archbishop's palace. while there a minor hurricane hit and tashi and i sat on a covered balcony watching the rain travel in horizontal slabs as the palm trees bent and swayed. the paved grounds all around the archbishopric filled with about eight inches of water and we had to wade out. the streets were flooded, angry cypriot drivers in a bottle neck were cursing each other, and then we witnessed a collison. a fine day of art and weather.

3) the state gallery of contemporary cypriot art. it was my first time visiting this awesome neo-classical house full of incredible art work. i loved it. i wish i could include some pictures here, but i don't have time. some of my favorite artists were constantinos yiannicouris, adamantios diamantis, andreas-antis ioannides, telemachos kanthos, john corbidge (he made a painting of me when i was about three), angelos makrides, christophoros savva. to name a few. now repeat those all with your eyes closed.

and of course there was family, family, family in cyprus, my godmother, and my childhood friend olga. i had souvlaki five nights in a row.

last thursday my mother, my aunt tina, tashi and i departed from nicosia in our rental car. we drove through a clay pot making village, kornos, and chatted with the old ladies forming the thick red pots. we drove through lefkara, the lace making village, but a storm hit and it was too rainy to get out and enjoy the sights. then we went to apollo's temple perched above the sea, followed by kourion, an ancient amphitheater and archeological site also perched above the sea. we looked at mosaics and ruins and pillars and then went down to a beach where tashi and i splashed around in some big waves. and then onward to ayia marina, our home until our departure at the end of july.

our first day in this area was spent swimming in strong waves, driving as far east along the northern coast as permissible before hitting the cypriot/turk partition, and eating awesome fresh fish and calamari.

the next day was spent hiking into a breezy gorge, swimming in a rocky cove, and driving on twisty dirt roads through abandoned crumbling villages. we saw loads of goats of all shapes, sizes and colors, some with straight horns, some with curly horns, some with beards, many with spots. they were perched on rocky cliff sides, standing on old tin cans eating the leaves off of tree branches, crowding the road in front of the car, lolling about in the shade. crumbling stone structures, or small caves built into the cliffs, cropped up here and there where the sheep herders sleep. tashi and i fed grass to donkeys and watched partridges scoot along the road.

a bit of flora and fauna includes bright violet bouganvilla, white and pink oleander, aromatic jasmine, gardenia and geranium, purple thistles, luscious grape vines, olive, carob, juniper, cedar, eucalyptus. . .

today my mother and aunt tina are going to drop tashi and i off at the hippy beach by the campground. we discovered it last night, a clean, sandy, shallow, calm stretch with umbrellas and lounge chairs along a fragrant stand of eucalyptus. you can view the the akamis penninsula to the west and the pomos pennisula to the east. most of the beaches so far have been rough with deep drop offs which is difficult for tashi, but this one is perfect. and because it is close to a campground, i call it the hippy beach! it is clean with a snack bar and we are going to have a relaxing day while my mom and aunt visit monasteries in the mountains.

ciao, for now!

Monday, July 03, 2006


it is siesta time in cyprus, a good time for me to visit the internet cafe while tashi hangs out in the air conditioned hotel room with yia yia. i like the baking feel of the heat against my sun screen slathered skin. though i do need a big floppy hat. and right now in this cafe, there is big oscillating fan cooling my back.

we had lunch today in small family run taverna with checked tablecloths and caged birds. we had meat & rice stuffed vegetables, pork afelia (wine marinated pork w/ coriander), roasted potatoes, bulgur, thick amazing yogurt, fresh crusty bread, a cooling salad of lettuce, tomotoes, olives and cucumber, lemonade, cyprus coffee and a sip of ouzo.

today is a special day for me. i now officially have dual american and cypriot citizenship. my cypriot ID card was issued this morning, and on friday my cypriot passport should be ready. i feel like dancing on tables and breaking plates.

yesterday we visited the cyprus museum where i got to marvel at statues of aphrodite, artemis, bacchus, zeus, and appreciate stories painted on pots, and ogle ancient jewelery and read about the looting of ancient treasures.

aside from the love of being here, there are some odd family dynamics to navigate, not the least of which is mother's and mine. but we'll survive.


Saturday, July 01, 2006

alive and well on ledra street

here we are in nicosia, cyprus. the journey was epic and the first night was sleepless and hot at my uncle's partner's condo by the sea, a lovely place except for the mouse sized coakroaches. we awoke after just a couple of hours of sleep and jumped in the beautiful, cool, cleansing sea. we are now tucked away in a decent hotel in the old part of the capital city where we will visit many relatives. last night was souvlaki and greek mezze at a restaurant next to "the green line" with my three bearded uncles. the green line is the division between the turkish occupied part of cyprus and cypriot cyprus. the is a big sign there that says, "the last divided capital." pictured above is a lookout point on the green line where you can weep and gaze over at the turkish side.

tashi continues to be a great traveler despite the heat, hassles and sleep deprivation. though right now she is very bored watching me email and blog. i will sign off and pay my fee and we will walk the hot cobbled streets back to our hotel where we will luxuriate in air conditioning until lunchtime. sorry this post is a bit dull, more adventures ahead.